To thine own self be true
According to Aristotle, who was probably the greatest philosopher and thinker of all time, the ultimate aim of human life and activity is the development of character. And he had a good point. The most important goal you could hope to accomplish in the course of your life is to become an excellent person, in every respect. Your purpose should be to develop the kind of personality and character that earns you the respect, esteem, and affection of the important people in your world.
Take leadership for example. It is one of the most discussed and written about business topics. There are thousands of leadership courses claiming to transform your business, even your life. These often amount to plenty of pontificating, motherhood statements and conflicting advice, which is somewhat ironic when businesses need practical solutions to deal with today`s economic woes.
Every business leader wants answers today - right now! The quick fixes must be separated from strategy. Quick fixes are about getting existing assets, people, money, processes to work better, faster and creatively to win sales. Plenty of leadership scope there, with separate fast-track improvements from cutting costs that do not impact on sales. However, cost cutting is not leadership, unless you add a caveat: without damaging the business. Leadership ensures cost cutting does not become asset-stripping. Which brings us to the longer term.
Assets must be invested in. Any leader who has inherited brilliant people, strong customer relationships or a great brand recognises this. In trying economic circumstances it is difficult to justify the resources needed to create `strategic assets`. It calls for resolve, clear thinking and negotiation with opinion makers to support investment. Without this, initiatives will stall. Part of the leadership task is to address any residual opposition.
Driving both short-term initiatives and long-term investment decisions requires a crucial leadership ingredient: excellent relationships. Getting people energised and confident that they can influence the `bottom-line` is more likely when trust and respect are established. Given how easy it is to ignore the importance of excellent relationships, it is probably the best practical starting point for most of us as leaders.
In a way, leadership is "situational." What is necessary for success in a leadership position is determined by many factors, including the people to be led; the objectives to be accomplished; the competition for resources; the social, cultural, political, and economic environment; and the situation that the leader finds at the moment.
Changing any of these factors will change the qualities of leadership necessary for success, and once you have developed a clear vision for your ideal future, you must develop the habit of accepting complete responsibility for yourself and for every aspect of your life.
Perhaps the most important quality of leadership is the habit of integrity. You develop integrity and become a completely honest person by practicing telling the truth to yourself and others in every situation. Shakespeare wrote, "To thine own self be true," meaning that you are what you believe in. You must continually clarify what you stand for and what you will not stand for. Once you have decided that you are going to build your life around certain values, you refuse to compromise those values for anything.
Think about this. Imagine that you could write your own eulogy. How would you like to be remembered and described by others when you are gone? To thine own self be true.
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